Age of Empires III: The Age of Discovery is a board game created by Glenn Drover based on the video game Age of Empires III. It was originally published in 2007 by Tropical Games, and is currently distributed by Drover's own publishing company, Eagle Games. The game may be played by up to five players, though pieces for a sixth player were available for a sixth player in limited supply.
Like the video game, each player takes on the role of a major European power attempting to discover the Americas - according to the game's manual, the five player colors represent England, France, Spain, Portugal, and Holland (the identity of the sixth nation for the limited-release sixth player pieces were not stated). The Americas are divided into nine regions, each of which being associated with a particular trade good (there are also two trade goods not associated with any region). At the start of the game, only one of the nine regions are discovered, and discovery tiles are placed face-down in each of the eight other regions.
Each player begins with a small supply of money as well as colonists. The game is played over eight turns, with the first three turns referred to as "Age I", the next three as "Age II", and the final two turns as "Age III". At the start of each turn, players must place their colonists in any number of event boxes, taking turns until every player has placed their colonists. Afterwards, each event box is resolved in a prescribed order. The turn ends with each player collecting resources.
Events are resolved in the following order:
- Initiative, which alters the order in which players place their colonists in later turns as well as awarding a small amount of money.
- Colonist Dock, which moves colonists played there to regions of the board that already have been discovered.
- Trade Goods, which earn the player trade goods. Trade goods may also be earned if a player is the first to have three colonists in a region, or by the effects of capital buildings. Trade goods provide a fixed income for each player, awarded at the end of each turn, by arranging them in sets. Sets may be freely rearranged to optimize the amount of money earned.
- Merchant Shipping, which allows players to earn merchant ships if they have the most colonists there. Merchant ships count as "wild-cards" for the purposes of set arrangement with trade goods, though no set may use more than one merchant ship.
- Capital Building, which allows players to purchase capital buildings. Five capital buildings are available for purchase each turn, and capital buildings are divided by age, with each capital building being only purchasable in their corresponding age. Capital buildings may either grant a one-time benefit or a lasting benefit.
- Discovery, which allows players to discover new regions. When players attempt to discover new regions, players must commit a number of colonists to the discovery of an area. Should the number of colonists exceed the defense value of the region (represented by Native American symbols), the region is considered discovered, and the player may place one colonist in the newly-discovered region. Should the discovery fail, however, any colonists committed to the discovery are lost. Discovery of regions award the player a certain amount of money. Once all nine regions of the board are discovered, players may continue to assign colonists to Discovery, except that a separate Discovery Card deck is used. Cards in the Discovery Card deck represent regions outside of the Americas that have been discovered, but no colonists are assigned there should a discovery attempt succeed. Players may only make one discovery attempt per turn.
- Specialists, which allow a player to use a specialist for the following turn. Specialists are colonists which give extra benefits when assigned to specific tasks - for example, a captain, when assigned to Discovery, counts as two colonists, while a soldier may be deployed to defend colonies. There are four types of specialists, and only five specialists (one of each, plus one additional one) may be trained at any given turn (though the second specialist of a particular type requires an additional monetary cost).
- Warfare, which allows players to attack opposing colonists that have been placed on the board. Players may either declare small-scale battles against another player in any one region, which is free, or declare a full-scale war against another player, which costs money but applies for every region where both players have colonists. When battling in a region, each soldier in a colony eliminates one opposing colonist.
With the exception of colonists that are sent to the Colonist Dock or are on Discovery, colonists are returned to a player's supply at the end of the turn.
At the end of the each age, players earn victory points based on the number of colonists in each region. For each region, the player with the most colonists is awarded six points, while the player with the second most is awarded two points. If two players tie for the most, both players are awarded two points. If more players tie for the most, or players tie for the second most, all tied players do not receive any points. At the end of the game, points are also awarded for the player's final-turn income, discovery tiles and discovery cards earned by the player over the course of the game, as well as for certain capital buildings which award points. The player with the most victory points wins.